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Muslim backwardness and UK

Vinod Kumar

Three bomb blasts in London's subway system and one on a double-decker bus on July 7, 2005 and another similar failed attempt on July 21 have focussed attention of the world on the Muslims, in general and in the United Kingdom in particular. Many Muslim groups allege that the Muslim youth are angry with the British role in Iraq and the failure of the British government to integrate the Muslims in the mainstream.

The latest British statistical report "Focus on Religion" states that Muslims are the most underprivileged religious group in the country. Muslims number some 1.6 million in the U.K. The report reveals, among other things, that they have the highest rates of unemployment and the worst health of any religious group.

According to the latest statistics, Muslim men unemployment rate of 14% was three times higher than the 4% among the Christian and more than two times of 6% among the Hindu men. ( cci/nugget.asp?id=979),

In 2003-2004, almost a third (31 per cent) of Muslims of working age in Great Britain had no qualifications Ė the highest proportion for any religious group group -- as compared to 16% among Christians and 13% among Hindus. They are also the least likely to have degrees (or equivalent qualifications). (

In population demographics, Muslims have the youngest age profile of all the religious groups in Great Britain. About a third of Muslims (34 per cent) were under 16 years of age in 2001, as were a quarter (25 per cent) of Sikhs and a fifth (21 per cent) of Hindus.

The above statistics point to Muslim backwardness and high population growth rates in Britain.

Comparison between the Muslim and Christian level of achievements might not be justified as the Christians have been the main population group in the UK. One might say they have a built-in cultural, religious and language advantages over the newer immigrants. However, both the Muslims and the Hindus, are relatively new to the UK; and started arriving about the same time and from similar backgrounds with 84% of the Hindus (469,000) and 67% of the Muslims (1,064,556) coming from the Indian subcontinent. ( and

Another report by The Office for Standards in Education (Ofsted)-- October 2000 -- noted "that all ethnic groups have shared in the national rise in standards...but their rise has not been equal. African-Caribbean and Pakistani pupils have drawn least benefit from the rising levels of attainment: the gap between them and their white peers is larger now than a decade ago. However, pupils of Indian origin performed better than their white counterparts."

August 2000 statistics published by the Department for Education and Employment (UK) reveal that pupils from the Indian community are much more likely to continue in education at the age of 16 and are more likely to aspire to enter higher education than other pupils. At the age of 18, 80% of Indian pupils are studying for qualifications, compared to only 50% of white pupils. The study went on to note "children from the Indian community were higher achievers than their white counterparts, with 51% getting five or more good GCSEs.

" The minister noted that Pakistani and Bangladeshi pupils were the most likely not to hold any qualifications" - the report went on to say.

Is such backwardness and higher population growth among the Muslims unique to Britain?

In the USA, where there is substantial local population of Muslims, the situation does not seem to be much different. . In the USA today, there are about 7 million Muslims -- more than the Jews --and Muslim community is very proud of it. At a conservative estimate there are about 1.2 million Hindus. Again, let me not compare the performance of the Muslims with Jews -- the Jews have been in the US for a long time. Let me compare the performance of the Muslims with the Hindus, where the former have an almost six to one population advantage.

In an excellent article "Education and the American family" (The News International, May 29, 2000), Dr. Manzur Ejaz while giving details and information about the education system in the USA, points out glaring discrepancies in educational achievements between the people from Pakistan and India. He rightly questions "why Pakistani immigrant youth are not compatible with their Indian counterparts despite having the same educational setting in the US".

In the recently (c. 2000C.E.) published list of recent 400 richest Americans, I found six Indian Americans and not a single Muslim. Even though a fairly large percentage of the Muslims in the USA are indigenous and have been there for a much longer period than the Indians.

I then conducted a limited and random survey of the faculties of Graduate Schools of Business of four US Universities (c. 2000CE). I found on the faculty of the four Business schools there were 37 Hindu members and only 7 Muslims -- including Muslims from all the countries of the world like north Africa, Turkey, Arabia etc. I have a fairly good knowledge of Muslim names from those countries. I doubt if I missed any Muslim name. But even if I missed a few, still the discrepancy is disproportional.

The relative situation of the two communities in the Indian subcontinent where the two had lived together for centuries and where the Muslims, being the ruling class for centuries, had an advantage over the subjugated Hindus would be a good place to look at.

To address this issue of Muslim backwardness, let me go back to the days of Aurangzeb when the India has been ruled exclusively by the Muslims for almost five centuries -- 479 years to be more exact. In the year 1671, Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb issued orders for the dismissal of all Hindu head clerks and accountants and replacing them by Muslims. Sadly, only to find out that there were not enough qualified Muslims. The emperor, later on, allowed half of these posts to be held by the Hindus.


Lance Brennan, in his Research paper "The Illusion of security: The background to Muslim separatism in the United Provinces" (Indiaís Partition edited by Mushirul Hasan, Oxford University Press, New Delhi, 1998), on the educational achievements of Muslims during the British Raj observed "Muslims had achieved an almost fixed share in recruitment to the ICS because although most Muslim candidates could not score grades equivalent to their Hindu competitions, they were nominated up to a fixed proportion of the vacancies." Even before partition Muslims could not compete with the Hindus in academics.



It is commonly alleged by Muslim apologists that the Muslim backwardness stems from the Muslims having been subjected to western colonial rule. In all fairness this excuse holds no water. In the Indian subcontinent for over a century both the Hindus and the Muslims were under the colonial rule and before that for centuries, it were the Hindus who were under the Muslim subjugation. If anything, the Muslims had an upper hand and as pointed out above, under the British rule Muslims had advantage over the Hindus.


For example, the Muslim proportion of the provincial civil service was over double their proportion of population. Figures supplied to the 1913 Royal Commission
on the Public Services in India show that the Muslims held 34.7% of appointments in UP against 60% held by the Hindus. In the executive branch Muslims occupied 41.3% of positions in 1913 against 48.6% held by Hindus.

"Taking a broad picture first, the census of 1911 indicates that out of the total of 123,022 persons engaged in the 'services of the state' 53.0% were Hindus and 41.94% were Muslims, and out of 85,623 police, 44.71% were Hindus and 50.33% were Muslims. Muslims had clearly a disproportionate share of overall government employment....

Much is made of the Islamic/Arabic literature and sciences during the eighth and the ninth centuries. Edward Sachau, an Arabic scholar and translator of Alberuniís India demolishes this myth. "The foundation of Arabic literature was laid between A.D. 750 and 850. It is only the tradition relating to their religion and prophet and poetry that is peculiar to the Arabs; everything else is of foreign descent. The development of a large literature, with numerous ramifications, is chiefly the work of foreigners, carried out with foreign materials, as in Rome the origines of national literature mostly point to Greek sources. Greece, Persia and India were taxed to help the sterility of the Arab mind." (Alberuniís India, Edward Sachau, Delhi, 1993, pp. xxviii, First published 1910) Commenting on study of astronomy, Sachau wrote "they learned from Brahamgupta earlier than from Ptolemy." (ibid, pp. xxxi) Indian sciences were pedalled by the Arabs to the later generations as of Arabic origin as Sachau notes: "Many Arab authors took up the subjects communicated to them by the Hindus and worked them in original compositions, commentaries, and extracts. A favorite subject of theirs was Indian mathematics, the knowledge of which became far spread by the publications of Alkindi and many others." (ibid, pp. xxxiv)

Now, what can be the reasons for the poor performance of Muslims? May be what a reformist Muslim wrote has something to do with it: "The explanation of Muslim backwardness is to be found in the very make-up of the Muslim mind. Indian Muslims believe that they are a perfect society and are superior to all other communities in India. One of the grounds for this belief is the assumption that the Islamic faith embodies the vision of a perfect society and, therefore, being a perfect Muslim implies not having to make any further progress."

What is true of the Muslims in India is probably true of the Muslims anywhere else.

Muslims believe that Islam was revealed by God, Prophet Muhammad is the last Prophet on earth and the Koran His Own words and the last revelations. This they believe makes Islam the perfect religion and the Muslims the perfect community. Prophet Muhammad perfect role model for humanity forever to emuate. No further improvements, thus, be made in any because that will imply the last word of God or the Last Prophet of God were not perfect.

Muslims do sincerely believe that all what is worth knowing is contained in the Koran as Caliph Omar wrote to Amru, the commander of Islamic forces in Egypt when asked what should he do with the books in the library of Alexandria. "The contents of those books," wrote Caliph Omar, "are in conformity with the Koran, or they are not. If they are, the Koran is sufficient without them; if they are not, they are pernicious. Let them be destroyed." (Mahomet and his successors, Washington Irving, Renaissance Publishing House, Delhi, 1993, pp. 328)

Many Muslims still believe "Talab il ilm ba'di wosule ma'loom madmoom" -- meaning "the search of knowledge after gaining it is foolish", and after having gained the knowledge of the Koran what else is there to learn? "The rest is pernicious."

It is no wonder that many Muslims don't see any value in modern education system. And in Islamic schools, known as Madarasa or Madaris, all what they teach is the Koran and the Ahadith -- the traditions of the Prophet. It is not that Muslims are in any way lacking in intelligence or less hard working in any form; it is just their motivations are different from the followers of other religions. It is more important for a Muslim to study and follow his religion more rigorously than for the followers of other religions.


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